Sunday, July 31, 2005

Ahmadinejad not man in Tehran Embassy Photo--CIA

The Gulf/2000 Project - SIPA - COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Ahmadinejad not man in Tehran embassy photo - CIA

Fri Jul 29, 5:44 PM ET

A CIA analysis has concluded a hostage-taker pictured in an old photo at
the U.S. Embassy in Tehran is not Iranian President-elect Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, a U.S. official said on Friday.

The analysis compared photos of Ahmadinejad and an embassy hostage-taker
whom former U.S. hostages identified as the newly elected Iranian leader.
It found discrepancies serious enough to suggest the two are different

"If there's a case to made that Ahmadinejad was one of the hostage-takers,
it will not be made on the basis of those photographs," said the official,
who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitive nature of the
subject matter.

The photos were widely published in the U.S. media late last month.

The official said the photo analysis was only one part of a broad
inter-agency investigation into Ahmadinejad's role in the aftermath of the
1979 revolution that severed U.S.-Iranian relations and brought Islamic
rule to Iran.

Several American hostages have said they recognized Ahmadinejad from
pictures published after his election, and that they believed he was one
of the captors.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the State Department are trying to
determine what role Ahmadinejad may have played, officials said.

Authorities have so far been able to confirm only that he was a leader of
the student movement that organized the 444-day siege of the embassy in

Ahmadinejad, who takes office on Tuesday, has denied he was involved in
storming the embassy and holding 52 hostages.

The United States has not resumed diplomatic relations with Iran since
that 1979-1981 hostage crisis and considers the Islamic Republic to be a
state sponsor of terrorism.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Washington and New York, President
Bush labeled Iran a member of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and
Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The Bush administration is pursuing diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to
abandon civilian uranium enrichment, which American officials say is a
cover for nuclear arms development, a charge Tehran denies.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - Anatomy Of A Neocon Smear--William O. Beeman - Anatomy Of A Neocon Smear: "Anatomy Of A Neocon Smear
William O. Beeman
July 06, 2005

Anatomy Of A Neocon Smear
William O. Beeman
July 06, 2005

William O. Beeman is professor of anthropology and director of Middle East Studies at Brown University. His forthcoming book is The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other (Praeger).

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had not even been officially declared the winner of Iran's presidential contest before the attacks began.

American neoconservatives were clearly not to be deprived of their cherished canard that the "mullahs were manipulating the election." Certain that Ahmadinejad's rival, former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, would win, they first denounced his comeback as "due not to popular demand, but to machinations of mullahs," as Danielle Pletka asserted in The New York Times on June 16, before the final voting. Once Ahmadinejad had been declared the surprise victor, the neoconservatives began to denounce him as the candidate of religious leader Ali Khamene'i, claiming that the election was fixed by the clerical establishment. Clearly, the election was to be demonized, whoever won.

Neocon (and Karl Rove confidant) Michael Ledeen couldn't even wait to find out who won. In a statement in the National Review Online on June 24, he wrote, "Iran today reminds me very much of the death struggle between Hitler and the SA, the brown-shirted thugs who led the Nazi 'revolution'. At a certain point, Hitler knew they were a potential threat to his rule, and they were violently purged." It is unclear whether Ledeen's reference to the SA applies to Hashemi-Rafsanjani or to Ahmadinejad. Presumably, either would have served his rhetorical purpose.

Then, on the day Ahmadinejad's victory was declared, the perpetual enemies of the Islamic Republic, the Mojaheddin-Khalq (MEK) released a photo purporting to show the newly elected president with a blindfolded American hostage during the hostage crisis of 1979 to 1981. The photo was immediately distributed around the world, and accusations that Ahmadinejad was a "hostage taker" flew fast and furious. Some of the former hostages, still bitter because they had been prevented from suing Iran for their long captivity, thought they remembered him from their experience 25 years ago.

It was all a lie. Sa'id Hajjarian, an aide to outgoing president Mohammad Khatami and one of the original planners of the hostage crisis, quickly verified that the man depicted in the photo was not Ahmadinejad, but rather Taqi Mohammadi, one of the young men involved in the hostage taking. Mohammadi later joined the MEK, ironically, and died in prison. Hajjarian had publically criticized Ahmadinejad during the presidential campaign, and had no reason to lend him undue support. Even without Hajjarian's statement, numerous testimonials from multiple sources, including the family of Taqi Mohammadi, contradicted the false assertion that Ahmadinejad was the man in the widely distributed photo.

So, what is really going on here?

Clearly, a large number of people in the world are interested in discrediting the Iranian government and the newly elected president, even when they must resort to outright lies or absurdly twisted logic. The MEK, who participated in the Iranian Revolution of 27 years ago but were cut out of power six months later, still harbor fantasies of marching on Tehran and taking over the nation. They have created a shadow government outside of Iran, and have a coterie of aging troops massed near the Iranian border in Iraq with the blessing of the United States government. In an astonishingly effective political coup, they have co-opted a number of American legislators who support them with American taxpayer dollars. Among them are Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. The MEK has somehow convinced these American officials that they plan to bring "democracy" to Iran. The fact that they are still on the U.S. government list of terrorist groups, having killed American citizens during the time of the shah, seems not to faze Santorum, Brownback or Ros-Lehtinen.

The neoconservatives, such as Ledeen, Pletka and others including Richard Pearle, Patrick Clawson and Daniel Pipes—all Bush administration confidantes—still harbor the hope that the United States will launch a military strike against Iran, largely driven by the conviction that Iran poses a danger to Israel. The discrediting of Iran's new president seems to be yet another reason to put forward to the Bush administration why the government in Tehran must go.

What the neocons and the MEK are trying to hide from the American people is that Ahmadinejad is in fact a departure from the Iranian regime of the past. He is a religious conservative but not a cleric, and he has embraced some of the domestic agenda of Iran's reformers. These include economic development, anti-poverty programs, and anti-corruption reforms—things vital to an Iranian electorate sick of the nepotism and outright theft that has crept into 27 years of clerical rule, liabilities that many saw embodied in Ahmadinejad's rival, Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

Ahmadinejad lacks practical experience in legislative matters. He has a Ph.D. in civil engineering specializing in transportation, and ran a tight ship as Tehran's mayor. His modest life style and sober demeanor gained him the trust of many Iranian voters. He might just be a bridge-builder to the world—if the world would meet him halfway.

The danger in attacking him before he even gets started in office is that he, and the Iranian government, may turn further inward, adopting a defensive, defiant posture to the world. The United States should fervently hope that this does not happen. This is why the Bush administration should ignore the naysayers. With patience and care, Ahmadinejad, along with Iran's young and rising generation, can be brought productively into cooperation with the United States. But first, a quarter century of bitterness between the two nations must cease. Rejecting the slander against Ahmadinejad would be an excellent first step.

Copyright Agence Global, 2005

Monday, July 04, 2005

Providence Journal--Iran May Still Reform under New President--William O. Beeman | Providence, R.I. | Opinion: Contributors: "William O. Beeman: Iran may still reform under new president

01:00 AM EDT on Monday, July 4, 2005

William O. Beeman: Iran may still reform under new president

01:00 AM EDT on Monday, July 4, 2005

MANY PEOPLE IN IRAN and around the world are greeting the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran with trepidation, given his conservative credentials. Yet an examination of Iran's broad cultural patterns suggests that social progress is far from over in the Islamic Republic, and will, in fact, advance under Mr. Ahmadinejad's leadership.

From my observer's post, in Tehran, Ahmadinejad seemed to be completely out of the running before the election. With a 7-percent margin in the pre-election polls, his stunning victory took the world by surprise.

There may indeed have been shenanigans in the Iranian presidential election, as many have charged. However, an examination of the voting patterns both in the first election and in the runoff conform to expected patterns, making it unlikely that the election was stolen. What is more likely is that the pollsters and observers failed to tap into Ahmadinejad's support.

In assessing the Iranian political climate, Westerners -- and Westernized Iranians -- tended to ignore the traditional population in South Tehran and outside the capital. It is largely these people who elected Ahmadinejad.

The great fear of many in Iran is that progress made in recent years in personal liberty, increased opportunities for women, and advances in social justice will be turned back to the repressive days following the Revolution of 1978-79. However, an examination of the broad social trends that brought Mr. Ahmadinejad to office should give those who view his election with trepidation hope that things are not likely to be as bad as they envision.

In all societies, the push toward change is matched by a tendency to maintain "traditional" values, whatever they are. U.S. citizens have witnessed this in recent years, and Iran provides an example of the same tendencies.

In Iran, the push toward modernization in the Pahlavi era was met by the conservatism of the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 -- tendencies that hark back to at least the 18th Century, when clerics became disillusioned with the corruption of the rulers of the Safavid Empire. Modernization as an Iranian trend dates back to the first contacts with Europe in this period.

However, in Iran the desire to be spiritually pure runs against the desire to be modern, and to gain respect from the great nations of the world. Iranians are as proud of their spirituality as they are of their status as an advanced nation, and this is reflected in the attitudes of both conservatives and social progressives.

Among my deeply Islamic friends in South Tehran on my recent trip, I saw anger that the West seems to be impeding Iran from developing nuclear industries, and failing to recognize Iran for its burgeoning computer and industrial base. My friends were voting for Ahmadinejad. As my friend Hamid, a pious engineering student, exclaimed, citing one of Ahmadinejad's campaign speeches: "He says it right -- we have to achieve on our own. We have to stop worrying whether the United States or Europe will approve of what we do." And there is some truth to that.

In North Tehran, at a chic salon, I ran into young people who confessed that their lives seemed increasingly to lack meaning. "So what if I can drink and see pornography -- what does that prove?" said one 19-year-old, who was planning to join a Sufi (Islamic mystical) order.

The most popular political writers in recent years appeal to balancing these tendencies; some, unknown in the West, such as Ali Shari'ati and Abdulkarim Soroush, become immediate cult figures. They provide cultural sustenance to people who are very hungry indeed.

Mr. Ahmadinejad represents several departures from recent leaders. Some Iranian commentators have already noted that, far from being a tool of the ruling clerics, he seems to represent a rejection of everything the public dislikes about them.

First, he is not a cleric. The first president of the Islamic Republic, Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr, was also not a cleric, but he was quickly removed from office. The next three presidents, Khamene'i, Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and Khatami, were all mullahs. For Iranians who consider themselves good Muslims but who are tired of clerical rule, Ahmadinejad's election is a fresh approach to leadership.

Second, Mr. Ahmadinejad is a technocrat-civil engineer, with a Ph.D., who is deeply committed to Iran's progress in technology, medical science and industry, including nuclear power. He has the expertise to lead the country in this direction, which is fervently desired by the population.

Third, he appears to be modest, honest and pious. The population of Iran is all too aware that the clergy have become corrupt in their leadership -- enriching themselves and their families, and becoming a kind of new royalty for the nation. Mr. Ahmadinejad is the antithesis of this image.

Finally, like most Iranians, Mr. Ahmadinejad is a fierce nationalist. He is utterly uninterested in kowtowing to the United States, and has expressed a desire to make Iran, independently, a great economic and intellectual power.

His early pronouncements have dealt with the respect due to women as equal partners in society, the need for improvement in economic conditions for the poor, and the advancement of education. These statements hardly sound reactionary -- they sound just like the aspirations of Iran's reformists.

Time will tell whether Mr. Ahmadinejad makes good on his early pronouncements. However, he deserves a chance to show his mettle. Certainly his ascension to office should be greeted with cautious respect.

William O. Beeman, a Brown University professor of anthropology and the director of its Middle East Studies, monitored the Iranian presidential election in Tehran. His forthcoming book is The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.